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Louisiana 4-H and UnitedHealthcare Expand “Eat 4-Health” Partnership, Use “Pedal Power” and Gardening to Help Tackle Obesity and Encourage Healthy Lifestyles Among Youth

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UnitedHealthcare and Louisiana 4-H are expanding a successful partnership called Eat4-Health that helps tackle obesity by promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles among youth and families.

Imari Hunter (L), a 5th grader at Alice Boucher Elementary, and Seth Mouton (R), an 8th grader with

Imari Hunter (L), a 5th grader at Alice Boucher Elementary, and Seth Mouton (R), an 8th grader with Holy Family Catholic School in Lafayette, join fellow students in preparing to make healthy smoothies with specially made blender bikes donated to Louisiana 4-H by UnitedHealthcare as part of a $40,000 grant announced today that will promote healthy living among youth. The smoothie bikes were unveiled at Charles Burke Elementary School where more than 100 youth were being taught about gardening and how fresh fruits and vegetables can be used to make healthy snacks. Also pictured holding the check: Janet Fox, Associate Department Head, Louisiana 4-H Youth Development; Joey Durel, Lafayette City-parish President; UnitedHealthcare mascot Dr. Health E. Hound; and Deborah Jones, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Louisiana (Photo: Kevin Herglotz).

UnitedHealthcare is providing LSU AgCenter, which administers 4-H programs in Louisiana, a $40,000 grant to support youth healthy-living programs, including the LSU AgCenter School Garden Initiative and to purchase pedal-powered blender bikes that will be used for fun, energetic events where young people can create their own healthy smoothies through exercise.

The specially made stationary bikes, equipped with a blender mechanism that makes smoothies when pedaled, were unveiled today at Charles Burke Elementary in Lafayette where more than one hundred children from across the region participated in the annual School Garden Initiative Training Day hosted by the LSU AgCenter and Lafayette Parish Master Gardeners.

The day included training and activities to learn how to grow healthy school gardens. UnitedHealthcare is one of several sponsors of the garden initiative, providing $8,000 in garden grants for the program this year. Students participating in the garden training met UnitedHealthcare’s mascot Dr. Health E. Hound and use the pedal-powered blender bikes to create their own smoothie, highlighting how food grown in gardens can be used for healthy snacks.

The $40,000 grant from UnitedHealthcare will support the use of the smoothie bikes at community events, help fund eight community garden grants, and sponsor 4-H youth-led events and programs through spring 2015 in which children and their families can learn about easy ways to promote healthy lifestyles. Recipe cards, educational information and other resources will be distributed as part of the program with the goal of encouraging young people and their families to eat more nutritious foods and exercise regularly.

LSU AgCenter 4-H Youth Development has created a plan to provide innovative, hands-on learning and target specific community needs in the state. Many of these activities support healthy-living programs led by 4-H that encourage youth and community participation.

“Eat4-Health is a great partnership that is providing Louisiana 4-H important resources to expand our programs to promote health among our youth,” said Dr. Mark Tassin, 4-H Youth and Family Development Department Head, LSU AgCenter. “There are so many exciting opportunities to reach young people. Whether through school gardens or healthy smoothie bikes, these initiatives provide fun, interactive ways to teach and for kids to learn, and helps illustrate the connection between growing healthy food and enjoying healthy snacks.”

UnitedHealthcare employees will help organize and host many of the partnership events, working with 4-H to plan and implement activities that lead to positive, sustainable change at the community and individual levels. The company has provided LSU AgCenter with $100,000 to support the Eat4-Health program since 2011.

“UnitedHealthcare is grateful for the opportunity to expand our Eat4-Health partnership in Louisiana, which is helping reach so many young people through innovative healthy living programs and educational events,” said April Golenor, president, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Louisiana. “These pedal-powered smoothie bikes, along with the school garden grants, are great ways to empower youth to make healthy, nutritious food choices and encourage staying active.”

UnitedHealthcare is providing $520,000 to National 4-H Council to support youth healthy-living programs. In addition to Louisiana, other state 4-H programs receiving grants include Arizona, Florida, New York, Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Eat4-Health, which began in 2011, has already reached more than 210,000 young people and families across nine states through a positive campaign that has trained thousands of 4-H teen youth health ambassadors to promote healthy lifestyles in their communities.

According to America’s Health Rankings(R), an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis, obesity is a leading risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and many cancers. Obesity continues to be at epidemic levels and is one of the fastest-growing health challenges confronting the nation. Louisiana ranks 50th in obesity with more than 1.2 million adults (34.7% of the population) and 16.1% of youth estimated to be obese. The report can be viewed and downloaded at www.americashealthrankings.org.

About 4-H
4-H, the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization, cultivates confident kids who tackle the issues that matter most in their communities right now. In the United States, 4-H programs empower six million young people through the 109 land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension in more than 3,000 local offices serving every county and parish in the country. Outside the United States, independent, country-led 4-H organizations empower one million young people in more than 50 countries. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of the Cooperative Extension System and 4-H National Headquarters located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Learn more about 4-H at www.4-H.org.

About UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 800,000 physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. Globally, UnitedHealthcare serves more than 45 million people in health benefits and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) , a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.

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